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Posted on:1981-07-05Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:The Johns Hopkins UniversityCandidate:MAHONEY, RICHARD DOYLEFull Text:PDF
GTID:1476390017466143Subject:Political science
Africa has traditionally been an area of marginal interest to Americans. It is not a continent where our national security interests are either directly or continuously at stake. Yet American leaders have felt constrained to respond on occasion over the past two decades to perceived threats from the Soviet Union and its allies. The usual result has been actions confused in purpose and contradictory in execution. The very modesty of our economic and political interests in Africa coupled with the fact that Soviet containment is the superceding concern has led to policies predicated on an external threat and often at complete odds with internal realities. Crisis diplomacy, moreover, has rarely related to the long-term interests of the United States on the continent.;The Angola crisis of 1975 is a recent case in point. Initial disinterest in the decolonization struggle was followed by sudden overreaction to the prospect of a Marxist takeover. The Ford administration's impulse to settle accounts with the Soviet Union led to a local choosing of sides when -- as George F. Kennan later contended -- there was absolutely no need to. Another scholar entitled his account of American intervention in Angola as "a story of stupidity.";The Kennedy administration's role in Africa was a notable exception to our generally unhappy and occasionally disasterous experience on the continent. The Congo was the centerpiece of U.S. African policy in the early '60s. The crisis witnessed the most sustained and exacting effort by an American administration to foster peaceful change in the African environment.;When Kennedy took the presidential oath in January 1961, Africa's largest state was on the verge of civil war. The Congo policy of Kennedy's predecessor -- which had given the CIA a virtual carte blanche to deal with the threat of Soviet intervention and to "eliminate" Patrice Lumumba, the country's Prime Minister -- was greatly discredited both at the UN and among African states. Support for the UN peace-keeping operation in the Congo was disintegrating.;To restore order in Central Africa and to block Soviet intervention, the Kennedy administration pursued four objectives in the following two years: (1) to rally European and Afro-Asian support for the peace-keeping operation; (2) to finance and expand the UN operation; (3) to build up a moderate political alternative within the Congo to Lumumbism and pro-Belgian reaction; (4) to bring an end to the secession of Katanga, the congo's wealthiest province.;As in Vietnam and Laos, the thrust of U.S. policy under Kennedy was to contain the Soviet Union and the growth of radical nationalism by fostering a counterrevolutionary order. The re-integration of mineral-rich Katanga and the necessity of prevailing on European and African governments to support the non-aligned Adoula regime were the key elements in this policy.;As Kennedy wrote in January 1963, the Congo experience was "as difficult and as complex as any in the whole range of our foreign policy operations." What was edifying about the episode was the Kennedy administration's will and capacity to lead in a continent previously and subsequently ignored by the United States. As such, there may be lessons to be learned as the United States now addresses the West's critical predicament in southern Africa.
Keywords/Search Tags:Kennedy, Policy, Congo, Africa, United states, Continent
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